Chile eyes delaying constitution assembly vote over pandemic

Chile’s congress should delay a two-day election to select the drafters of a new constitution for Chile until May because of the coronavirus pandemic, President Sebastián Piñera said Sunday.

He urged legislators to move the voting to elect 155 Chileans to the constitutional assembly to May 15-16 instead of April 10-11 as now scheduled. Elections for mayors, city councils and governors also would be delayed until the same days of the assembly vote under the president’s proposal.

“This has been a very difficult decision, but we must make it,” Piñera said, citing the need to “protect everyone’s health and life” amid a new surge in coronavirus infections.

Health experts had recommended suspending the planned election.

Intensive care units are at 95% capacity, with seven of every 10 ICU beds occupied by a COVID-19 case. The Ministry of Health reported Sunday more than 7,300 new coronavirus cases, the fourth consecutive day exceeding 7,000 cases.

Nearly 80% of voters in an Oct. 25 plebiscite supported seating an assembly to rewrite the constitution inherited from the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet when Chile returned to democracy. At the same time, the voters excluded any congress member from serving in the assembly.

The body will reserve 17 seats for Indigenous delegates, and the United Nations says it will be first time a constitution is drafted by an assembly equally divided between men and women.

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